Thursday, December 22, 2011
AUNT TINA'S FUDGE RECIPE -- (covered with plastic, of course!)
My husband’s Aunt Tina first sent us a box of her fudge in 1985. She and her husband were childless, but she mothered many of us who were in her life. That fudge was a Christmas gift that knocked our socks off....five pounds of 1/2 nut, 1/2 plain confection for my husband and me to devour. I remember cutting pieces, arranging them on plates, then creatively packaging them to share the bounty with friends. Fudge is best eaten fresh. Year after year came Aunt Tina’s handiwork; our appreciation seemed to grow exponentially.
As she aged, I worried about the strain the fudge production put on her. She would make fifty pounds each year. The pans were heavy and it was tiring to stir the sugar and evaporated milk down from a full, roiling boil. Aunt Tina confided in me that she had started making the fudge in lots, starting just after Thanksgiving. It was easier to manage cooking, packaging and shipping her gifts this way. Gingerly, I asked for her recipe. I proposed that I make the fudge for our growing family and help cut down her work. She wouldn’t hear of it. Another year, and another and I kept pleading with her. “No,” she said. Then the year came that she said, “I’m putting Crume (her husband) to work. He’s my assistant.”
I didn’t dare argue that I could make our batch. The Christmas came that she called me. “I’m late making the fudge this year; I had a quadruple bi-pass and....”
I interrupted her, “Aunt Tina, you are crazy. Please, let me make our fudge.”
“No,” she said, “But do you mind if I just send one pound of it this year?”
Two years later, Aunt Tina called me with a surprise.
“Dear, I have put the recipe for the fudge in the mail to you. But I wanted to explain a few things....” Whereby she launched into details about what a roiling bowl looks like. And explained that she opens all of the ingredients and measures them into separate bowls. Premeasured ingredients allow for ready addition to the mix according to Aunt Tina. She warned me to cover the fudge before it hardened or I would have a crusty top layer on the fudge. No-one wants that.
So began the hand-off. I was honored that she shared the recipe me. She said I was the only one that showed such an interest. Also, because she knew I wrote food articles for the local newspaper, she started sending me recipes she liked or used often Just because. I think it pleased Aunt Tina to know that, though she didn’t have children of her own, she could pass on recipes that were part of her life story.
This year, for the first time in thirty-five years, we received a Christmas card in Crume’s handwriting. My heart gave a little lurch, was Aunt Tina gone? No, but Aunt Tina would not be making fudge again; dementia has claimed her memory. So, this year, more than any other, I felt compelled to make Aunt Tina’s fudge. And yes, I remembered to cover it with plastic as soon it set up. Crusty fudge would never have passed Aunt Tina’s exacting standards. We couldn’t have that.